BBQ food, but not as you know it. Tracey Nightingale heads to London's Bó Drake and discovers some smokin’ hot East Asian fusion dining
Smoked and Korean food are just a couple of the trends we loved last year, and Bó Drake has got them both going on in a fabulous (dare we say the f-word?) fusion of East Asian BBQ and European cuisine. This is a buzzy little restaurant in London’s Soho that’s seriously big on flavour. It’s the brainchild of ex-Roka chef and rock star Jan Lee (we’ve all heard of Shitdisco, right?) and his South Korean wife, who he met at the Royal College of Art. Head chef Matteo Frugone, with his background in Italian, French and Asian food, completes the Bó Drake trilogy and puts a tasty European twist on the menu.
We’re here on a wet Monday evening, yet the tables are surprisingly full and I can see the attraction. It’s a cosy, intimate place with a cool, industrial vibe – think exposed brick walls and steel pipework fused with soft lighting and warm dark wooden flooring. Pull up a brown leather stool and perch at the long polished wood bar or tuck yourself away in the dimly lit dining room at the back. Wherever you take a pew, you’re in for a culinary treat.
The menu is small yet perfectly formed, taking diners on a journey through East Asia and Europe. Old favourites get an exotic spin with finger lickin’ good KFC (that’s Korean fried chicken), moreish miso glazed baby back ribs (above) and gloriously messy smoked pulled pork served on a bed of lettuce (perhaps a dish to avoid on a first date). This is smoky, juicy comfort food at its best, but there are also delicate dishes like yellow tail sashimi with pickled vegetables and roasted cod with porcini salad. Sides include sweet potato fries and spicy rice cakes (below), as well as pickles and kimchi that come in cute glass jars.
There’s an exciting cocktail menu to pair with the imaginative flavours, too. Let’s Get Berried is a marvellously sweet berry-infused vodka with eau de vie and egg white or why not try the refreshingly citrusy Peas & Love with prunelle, lemon and sugar? For pure drama and mysterious, smoky favours make Dr Jekyll and Hyde your poison. The aptly-named cocktail arrives in a lidded bottle smoking with liquid hickory, which you leave to infuse for few minutes before letting the smoke escape. Hakushu Reserve malt whisky, plum wine and vermouth provide a smooth, woody taste, followed by a devilish jalapeño pepper kick.
At the end of the evening, our friendly waitress encourages us to try dessert. ‘The tiramisu is good,’ she enthuses. ‘Or the green tea panna cotta.’ Tiramisu? Panna cotta? The Italian influences are such an unexpected surprise, we simply have to try them both. And the waitress is right, they really are good – and they work.
Bó Drake, 6 Greek Street, London, is open from noon daily. For more information or to book, call 020-7439 9989 or visit bodrake.co.uk